Friday, December 21

Islamic Labelling

Although I'd always proudly claim to be and identified as a Muslim, I'd never claim RadioShak to be an Islamic blog; as a friend commented once, the amount of T&A alone on these pages would kill any attempt at entering that particular section of the blogosphere. On the other hand, Islam does make up the single largest topic I write about and further receives the biggest amount of feedback so there so I guess it could be classed as such in a somewhat tenuous manner.

But to be honest I'm not sure I'd want it to be labelled in such a way anyway. One of the basic premises of this place was to break free from having to conform to my environment and to be as close to a real self as possible - the idea being that since everyone I knew could read these pages I would be unable to model myself to a particular crowd as we subconsciously (and reasonably) find ourselves sometimes doing. It's pretty liberating having all my cards on the table, especially as I become more and more comfortable with who I am.

To write to a single audience would be way too restrictive as well. Forget the bits about girls, would talking about relationships be appropriate? What about my passion for film or videogames? Maybe, maybe not. I think that one of the biggest benefits that blogging has brought to the Internet - the "realness" and integrity of being written by a non-expert - has been trampled on as they become more focused and aligned to a particular topics. We've always had conventional websites and editorial to talk about specific topics, and as blogs continually turn into magazines like these, issues regarding their aim and agenda start creeping out and like I've suggested before I think that it's pretty easy to write what people expect want to read.

Having said that, I've seen many Islamic blogs digress in ways magazines would not and so I could be wrong. But even so I like to think that the non-Islamic freedoms I afford myself here ironically allow me to write about Islamic topics others may not and more so in a language and style I feel the most number of people may relate more to.

Continuing on from this idea, Islamic blogs may also find themselves less accessible to non-Muslims, whereas I have regular non-Muslim readers who sometimes find themselves reading about a religion they wouldn't have otherwise. It's not quite sneaking Islam in through the back door, but I think it's clear to these readers that I'm here to discuss and offer ideas rather than preach a specific religion.

Apart from the practical implications there is a bigger reason I avoid going down the explicit Islamic route. For sure, Islam is important to me, and that's not just because I've been practising since I can remember, but more because it is something that is embedded in my life in a much different and more fundamental way to being Pakistani or British or a Software Engineer or wannabe film buff.

And I guess, rather counter-intuitively, that's why I'm so uncomfortable with the overtness of wearing Islam on my sleeve. On a trivial level it would almost be as if I would be trying to prove something about myself that I already knew. But it's deeper than that too; Islam is such a native part of who I am it almost feels weird and redundant to bring it up as if it were an extra special quality I have.

I don't wear a badge saying that I'm a man or that I'm human or that I have black hair and brown eyes or that I believe in a particular brand of gender and social rights; no, these things all become apparent via other more coincidental means and I'd like to think that my faith was blatantly obvious too without me explicitly having to draw attention to it.

Of course, there is a case of overtness being a form of dawah (religious invitation) and there is a very good argument in that. And at this point I have to make it clear that this post isn't about shutting down or discouraging Islamic blogging - I recognise the good that comes out of them be that in others or personally (I follow at least two of the BCA nominees religiously, ha ha) and the right to write what you want is something more important than any criticism I can come up with here.

But my personal approach has always been to give dawah by (extremely unlikely) example and if someone managed to wrestle a good practise from my behaviour I wouldn't be concerned whether they recognised it as coming from my belief in Islam or not.

Perhaps I don't value my Islamic consciousness or practise enough to vocalise it? It's not that I don't want to be recognised as a Muslim; I do and when asked I say that I am in a very proud way. But to extract my faith as a kind of entity that I own, manage, market and fine tune rather than one that owns me is something I don't think I could bring myself to doing; to rip out and isolate something so ingrained in my life would be quite impossible.

So there you have it: RadioShak isn't a Islamic blog, but a blog that happens to be written by Muslim. It's not here to explicitly spread the Message or make people think about religion, but if these things inadvertently happen anyway then that's cool too. I'm more than comfortable with that status than if I was seen as being only about one thing, be it film, relationships or Islam.

And yes, I totally acknowledge the irony of this post - there's nothing more overt than saying how covert you are about something. But hey, I've never claimed to be not self-involved.